Glenn Tiffert

Visiting Fellow

Glenn Tiffert is a Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution. Tiffert earned his Ph.D. in History from the University of California, Berkeley. From 2015-2017, he was the Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellow in Residence at the Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where he also held faculty appointments in the History Department and Asian Languages & Cultures Department, and taught undergraduate and graduate courses on modern China. He has taught at Berkeley, Harvard, and UCLA, and currently serves on the Projects and Proposals Committee of the American Society for Legal History.

Glenn’s research interests center on 20th century China, particularly its experience of revolution. At the vanguard among scholars of modern Chinese legal history, he has published works in English and Chinese on the construction of the modern Chinese court system and judiciary, the drafting of the 1954 PRC Constitution, the legacies of Nationalist judicial modernization to the PRC, and the hidden genealogy of current PRC legal policy. He is now completing a book manuscript that radically disrupts received wisdom about the 1949 revolution and the PRC’s place in Chinese history via the first archival study in any language of the takeover and reconstitution of Beijing’s Nationalist courts by the Chinese Communist Party.

Glenn is also pioneering the integration of computational methods drawn from data science into the study of Chinese history. Using China as an illustrative case, his latest research empirically documents the alarming synergies between digitization, intellectual property law, censorship, and authoritarianism, and exposes how emerging technologies could spur Orwellian manipulation of the historical record and memory on a global scale.

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Recent Commentary


Compromising The Knowledge Economy: Authoritarian Challenges To Independent Intellectual Inquiry

by Glenn Tiffertvia National Endowment for Democracy
Tuesday, May 12, 2020

This report explores the compromising effects of sharp power on the civil society institutions that democratic societies depend on for knowledge production, including universities, publishers, and think tanks. Authoritarian regimes—China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and others—are exploiting unanticipated vulnerabilities in open knowledge economies to challenge free intellectual inquiry from the inside. 

Analysis and Commentary

30 Years After Tiananmen

by Glenn Tiffertvia Journal of Democracy
Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The Chinese Communist Party allows no public commemoration of the protest movement that it violently crushed in the vicinity of Tiananmen Square in 1989, but its private reckoning with that tragedy has never mattered more. President Xi Jinping has quietly taken Tiananmen as a guiding light, reading it as a cautionary tale of regime decay and a playbook for revival. This view has inspired his campaigns to tackle corruption, restore ideological discipline, and reclaim control over history. And the most lasting contribution of all to Xi's tenure may be the selective rehabilitation of traditional Chinese culture as a source of political legitimacy.

Analysis and Commentary

Peering Down The Memory Hole: Censorship, Digitization, And The Fragility Of Our Knowledge Base

by Glenn Tiffertvia The American Historical Review
Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Technological and economic forces are radically restructuring our ecosystem of knowledge, and opening our information space increasingly to forms of digital disruption and manipulation that are scalable, difficult to detect, and corrosive of the trust upon which vigorous scholarship and liberal democratic practice depend. Using an illustrative case from China, this article shows how a determined actor can exploit those vulnerabilities to tamper dynamically with the historical record.

30 Years After Tiananmen: Memory in the Era of Xi Jinping

by Glenn Tiffertvia Journal of Democracy
Monday, April 1, 2019

No event in its modern history haunts the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as deeply as the protest movement that swept the country during the spring of 1989. Around the world, millions witnessed a tragedy unfold that is now indelibly linked to the square that was its focal point, establishing Tiananmen as a metonym for a government’s punitive war against a remonstrating citizenry. Not long after crushing the protests as a “counterrevolutionary rebellion,” the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) imposed a cone of silence around the entire affair so complete that even to mention it is to touch the third rail of Chinese politics.

New Frontiers in Digital Censorship: A Conversation with Glenn Tiffert

by Glenn Tiffert
Thursday, December 13, 2018

In this episode of the Power 3.0 podcast, featured guest Glenn Tiffert explores how structural and technological shifts in the global information environment—enabled by algorithms, artificial intelligence, and private sector hosting services—are creating new opportunities for authoritarian regimes such as China to censor and manipulate information at the source. 

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Turning Scholars into Unpersons

by Glenn Tiffertvia Hoover Digest
Monday, July 9, 2018

China is determined to tell its story on its own highly selective terms. How the People’s Republic has updated Orwell’s “memory hole” by making it electronic.

Hearing on The Long Arm of China: Exporting Authoritarianism With Chinese Characteristics

by Glenn Tiffertvia Congressional-Executive Commission on China
Wednesday, December 13, 2017

This hearing will examine the Chinese government’s foreign influence operations intended to censor critical discussion of its history and human rights record and to intimidate critics of its repressive policies. Attempts by the Chinese government to guide, buy, or coerce political influence and control discussion of “sensitive” topics are pervasive, and pose serious challenges in the United States and globally, particularly as China uses technology and the lure of the Chinese market to impose authoritarian practices abroad.